Expert engineers pump enthusiasm into Penryn College STEM curriculum

25 October 2016

On Friday 60 Year 8 students were propelled into an emergency disaster simulation by a team from local engineering company, Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group, the world leader in  peristaltic and sinusoidal pumps and associated fluid path technologies.

The professionals offered their engineering expertise to help the 12 and 13 year olds meet a technical, scientific and engineering challenge.  Students had to work out how to save Penryn from the effects of an ‘earthquake’ which had damaged the local water supply, created flooding, cracked Argal Dam and left the town without sanitation or clean water!

Throughout the day students learned how pumps worked to move fluids and how to disperse chemical and industrial spillage (mostly with lots of custard and ketchup!).  Later they made calculations to establish whether a damaged dam may be leaking water.  They practised how to pump flood water away and tackled the essential problems of access to mains water, emergency sanitation and water purification. Finally, students talked to an engineer working with UNICEF, who developed a portable pump to bring fresh water to communities around the world and has seen 3.5 million units distributed world-wide!


Team Peristaltic Pump Challenge

 Science, maths and technology in the real world

Simon Nicholson, Managing Director of Watson-Marlow, and his team brought professional and field experience to the day’s challenge, working alongside the college’s Science and maths teachers – many thanks to Ms Stoddart and Mr Childs. Their contribution helped students understand how the application of the science, technology and maths skills of the classroom are essential to solving real world problems. The company are innovative developers of technology to pump and transfer fluids of all kinds.  Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group has nine factories world-wide and is one of the largest local employers. ‘Our pumps fill medical vials, put the brown flavouring in Monster Munch and coat Samsung phone components with metal,’ he told the absorbed teenagers.

Engineering careers

There is a skills shortage in engineering and a vast range of job opportunities for young people from electrical, mechanical, product management to sales and application engineering.  Mr Nicholson said, ‘We have two factories in Falmouth and employ 270 people locally– two thirds of these are in field of engineering.  Some of our best engineers and product developers are local people who started on the shop floor.  We are interested in home-grown talent and would love to see bright, curious young people like these choose engineering as a career.’


A team tests for successful water purification

James Lushington, Assistant Headteacher, who organised the day, was delighted: ‘We are really keen to see our Science, Technical Engineering and Maths curriculum (STEM) come alive for our students – contact with enthusiastic professionals who work in local companies is tremendously inspiring.’

The year 8 students were really enthused: ‘It was great fun, really exciting to work out what to do – the pumps are amazing and we can’t wait to go and see how they are made at the factory.’

The STEM Challenge day ended with presentations and prizes awarded by Simon Nicholson to the group with the most effective engineering solutions.



Winning team receive prizes from Ken Gibb, Cornwall Manufacturing Group (right) and are congratulated by Simon Nicholson and Darren Etherington of Watson-Marlow (left)

Business/college collaboration

Collaboration between the college and Watson-Marlow has flourished since an appeal from the college for local businesses to offer opportunities to enrich the curriculum.  Both Maths and Science teachers have visited the multi-million pound high tech facility to see their academic subjects applied in engineering contexts.  The company has offered work placements and mentoring for gifted and talented pupils interested in engineering as a career, and participating pupils have an invitation to visit Watson Marlow to see expert engineering in action.

The day was sponsored by the Cornwall Manufacturing Group who are keen to support business involvement in the education of Cornwall’s young people.